Luis Valdez has spent the bulk of his career using plays and film to raise consciousness and campaign for the rights of Latinos in the United States. Of Mexican-American heritage, Valdez spent much of his youth as a migrant worker. Following graduation from San Jose State University where he studied theater, Valdez worked with the San Francisco Mime Troupe. With them, he went on a cultural exchange trip to Cuba. In 1965, Valdez teamed up with Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers to found "El Teatro Campesino," a theater group designed to educate audiences and to promote the grape boycott. To this end, he staged short vignettes to dramatize the dreadful living and working conditions suffered by exploited migrant workers. He remained with the troupe through the late '70s when he penned the musical drama Zoot Suit (1978), a look at the racism inherent in the notorious Sleepy Lagoon case that rocked Los Angeles in the early '40s. In 1981, he filmed the production and earned critical acclaim. Valdez is probably best known for his sophomore effort, La Bamba, a biopic chronicling the brief life of 1950s pop star Richie Valens that examined the effects of a cross-cultural upbringing of a talented youth.
by Sandra Brennan biography